Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Cake For You!

Part II - Cutting out the Sweets

I am the typical American who feels like something is missing if I don't have dessert after dinner. As I thought about how I became overweight, I knew that my sweet tooth had something to do with it. Okay, a lot to do with it. I love to bake. For me, there is nothing better than spending a quiet afternoon in my kitchen, while the girls are napping, mixing up something sweet for the family to enjoy after dinner.

I did three things at the same time.

I decided to completely cut out HFCS. No products with even trace amounts would enter my home. I did this for the whole family. Trace amounts add up throughout the day. I don't buy into the new ads and commercials pushing HFCS as natural. I am informed. I've investigated both sides of the HFCS "story" and made my choice. I think it's bad stuff and will avoid it like the plague (also, my doctor told me to avoid it). With diabetes in my immediate family, I feel I shouldn't take any chances. Now that HFCS has been found to be contaminated with mercury, I feel even better about my decision.

I also threw out white, refined sugar. I use raw sugars and organic sugars, honey and maple syrup. Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to cooking without even less-than-refined sugars. Baby steps, right?!

Then I stopped baking. I tried just baking something sweet once a week instead of three or four times a week. If I made a batch of cookies, I would give each of my girls two cookies. Matt would have three, maybe four, and he'd be done. I, on the other hand, would keep eating. When I began to feel sick, I would stop eating and freeze the rest of the cookies - thinking they'd be great to pull out when we had guests over. The morning I got up and found myself reaching into the freezer for a frozen cookie, I decided it was over. My love affair with sweets had to end.

This was crushing. I cried. I felt robbed. I used to be able to eat what I wanted, how much I wanted and whenever I wanted without gaining an ounce. My body was betraying me and I was pissed and heartbroken. I loved to bake and I loved me some sweets. It wasn't fair.

Each night, after dinner, I would struggle. My mind would pull up an image of some sort of dessert. I would open the refrigerator or cupboard, my mouth salivating, my hands reaching. I would then repeat, in my mind, over and over the following:

"Respect yourself, Natalie. You do not need this. You just want it. You are not hungry. You are (fill in the blank: bored, lonely, mad, sad, have PMS, etc.).
Eat Responsibly!"

Slowly, I began to develop something of a conscience about food consumption. Then, after a few weeks, I realized a funny thing had happened: Not only had I dropped five pounds, I no longer craved sweets. My cravings were far and few between and if I kept myself busy in the evening, I was easily able to distract myself from food until bedtime. I can't say I had great tricks. I would read, get online, talk on the phone, go to bed early and I would even allow myself to become mad and mourn over my "loss."

When my father came to visit in October, I noticed his head in a cupboard one night after dinner. He looked at me and said, "Where are your snacks?"

I looked at him and said, "I don't have any. Matt has his stash of snacks (read: junk), the kind I don't like, but, other than that, we don't really have anything. The girls eat things like fruit, dried cereal, plain popcorn, or homemade yogurt drinks."

He looked back at me and said, "Well, that's pretty extreme. You didn't have to get rid of everything."

Poor dad. He doesn't really have a weight issue, he works out daily and eats more raw vegetables and fruit in one day than I probably do in one week. While I know he struggles from time to time, he is, for the most part, a conscientious, responsible eater. So, I was depriving him. However, I did have to be extreme about it. At least for a long time - until I knew I had developed self-control. If I had a chocolate chips in my cupboard, I knew I could easily make chocolate chip cookies - my favorite indulgence.

So, you're wondering what I do snack on. A typical snack for me would be one of the following: Low-fat organic granola bars, low-fat yogurt drinks, 1/3 cup of wasabi peas, a handful of nuts, a couple of homemade mini-muffins, fruit or veggie sticks, a slice of cheese. But, I keep snacking in between meals to a minimum. Sometimes I need something so I don't become so hungry that I'll pig out at dinner. Tea and honey is a popular afternoon snack. If I have a filling enough lunch, I can usually hold off on eating until dinner.

As far as sweets go, I've kind of taken on a more Portuguese way of eating sweets. Most (not all, of course) view them as weekly treats, not daily. So, no, I do not deprive myself totally. That's silly. Usually, Matt and I eat out once a week. I usually save my sweets for eating out, or for gatherings we're often invited to. I feel that if I control what I eat in my home, which is where I eat 80-90% of my meals, eating out and indulging once a week, isn't that big of a deal. For my body, this has worked well. I still lost weight if I indulged once, sometimes twice a week. Anything more than that, I would notice no weight change that week.

You may also be wondering what to do if sweets and savories are your problem. Well, I am not a health care professional. So, I'm not qualified to dish out advice. But, in my opinion, I would work on one of them at a time (I also purged trans fats, artificial flavors & preservatives, etc. one at a time-I found it hard to do it all in the same week or month). If you're avoiding fad dieting, like me, and are pushing for a lifestyle change, it's all about baby steps. I have not yet written about my biggest hurdle:

Portion Control. More on that another time.


Katie said...

I had no idea about the mercury in HFCS. Wow. I am going to be more vigilant about it...

I don't have much of a sweet tooth....I would rather have seconds (or THIRDS) of dinner than dessert. I am VERY susceptible to chips and fries. I have a very hard time going without those!

I have a HUGE problem with portion control. My appetite is way too big for those dinky portions! :)

Tricia said...

I try eating LUNA bars, because most importantly they are delicious, but secondly they are made with mostly organic ingredients, and have tons of protein, fiber and essential vitamins.

I have no portion control, so I've really been struggling. I usually go to the gym before work, then pack my lunch for the day and I can only eat what I have at work...right? and then I usually hit the gym again after work.

The Dunns said...

That's awesome, Natalie!

When Steve is gone, I pretty much purge sweets from the house. I don't buy chips, ice cream, candy... except for my special Dove dark chocolates that I can keep pretty well controlled. I bake less frequently and usually just good snacks with/for the boys. But when he is home and he wants some comfort food, I usually end up eating most (all) of it. So, that's my main struggle.

I haven't gotten really diligent about HFCS b/c it seems like it's in EVERYTHING and I'm overwhelmed by it all. I don't know where to start. But I think I am going to try again to eliminate it. Thanks!

The Blech's said...

Sweets are my weakness too!! But every time I cut them out I seem to shed a few pounds. So good luck! It's hard but it works :) Right now it's hopeless because I swear this baby makes me eat sugar non stop. I should have bought stock in Skittles!!

Jay and Amie said...

I just sat down to read this (it's nice and quiet this morning) and then helped myself to 1/2 of a (huge) Costco cupcake left in my work kitchen. Ouch. I'm impressed with your determination to cut sweets from your diet! I too have a sweet tooth - mainly after meals (in this case, cupcake was breakfast - that counts, right?) and am working on training myself that meals don't have to end in sweets.

Jay's lack of restraint when sugary things are in the house has made our place pretty much sweet-free. I am able to pace myself with them (a package of Oreos could last me months) while he can' I don't bake very often (which I miss just as much as you I bet!) and keep sweets at work for those necessary chocolate cravings I get every now and then.

I look forward to reading more of your posts and am cheering you on as you battle HFCS, etc :)